"When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." - John F. Kennedy
On October 7th, 2000, #1 ranked Florida State entered the Orange Bowl to play Miami. FSU had beaten UM five straight times from 1995-1999. Butch Davis and the Hurricanes had a 3-1 record after a disappointing early-season loss at Washington. Miami rose to the occassion and beat FSU, ending the streak thanks to 328 yards and two touchdowns by sophomore QB Ken Dorsey. It was Dorsey's first big win as a Cane and the stepping stone to an incredible career in Coral Gables. The victory in 2000 was the start of six straight wins over Florida State during the magical Chris Rix era.
On October 10th, 2015, undefeated and #12 Florida State will face Miami in Tallahassee. FSU has beaten UM five straight times from 2010-2014. Al Golden and the Hurricanes are 3-1 after a disappointing loss at Cincinnati. Despite receiving a lot of hype, sophomore QB Brad Kaaya is still in search of his first statement win as a Hurricane. Beating Florida State would be a huge step forward for the program and give the Canes a bump in recruiting and national recognition.
I know the talent on the 2000 Canes vs the talent on the 2015 Canes isn't comparable, but FSU was also a lot better in 2000 than they are this season. Will my write-up about symmetry and history have any impact on the game whatsoever? Of course not, but anytime I can find a way to write about the memories of Miami football from 2000-2002, I feel obligated to do so. I'm aware that many of you will read the first two paragraphs and then head to the comment section to say things like "Bring back Butch" or "Golden is the problem," but if you've made it this far, try to avoid that temptation.
Now while it might seem extreme to use JFK's quote to compare Miami's current situation to the Cold War, every Canes fan reached his or her own version of DEFCON 1 after the loss to Cincinnati. We've been talking about it for months now - October is a very dangerous month for Miami. After the trip to FSU, home games against Virginia Tech and undefeated Clemson precede a road game at Duke on October 31st. Miami's 2014 season was derailed by a close loss to Florida State that the Canes never recovered from. If Al Golden was a politician, it's safe to say he wouldn't be checking his approval rating very often. Golden desperately needs a big win to quiet the noise and negativity or his job is in danger.
I addressed the danger part of the word "crisis," so it's time to focus on opportunity. The trip to Florida State couldn't come at a better time for the Hurricanes. The loss to Cincinnati was a warning sign that things need to improve in a hurry for this team to be successful. Pass protection, 3rd down struggles, penalties, and poor tackling have hurt Miami this season. The loss will trigger some potential lineup changes that this team badly needs, hopefully at safety and on the offensive line.
After the loss, everyone knew Al Golden would tell us that all of the season's goals are still alive and that Miami gets to start over with the beginning of ACC play. I know it's hard to admit, but he's right. The Coastal Division couldn't be more wide open, with UNC and Duke currently the perceived favorites of the week. Miami's disadvantage is playing crossover games against Clemson and FSU, but the Noles aren't as formidable as they've been the past few years. Saturday night's game is winnable for Miami. As we saw in 2014, there isn't a significant talent gap between these two teams (especially if Dalvin Cook isn't available) and we know Everett Golson isn't Jameis Winston. Miami fans are desperate to beat FSU after five years of suffering. Beating Jeff Driskel and Florida was nice, but Al Golden doesn't have a signature win as Miami's head coach. One strong performance on Saturday night would go a long way to changing perception. With a light schedule of marquee games this weekend, Miami and FSU will have the eyes of the nation in prime time on ABC. Recruits will be watching as well, many of them in person in Tallahassee. Opportunity is knocking at the door. It's time the Canes finally answer.
MIAMI +9.5 at Florida State - 8pm
Injuries will be a significant factor on Saturday night. Jermaine Grace is questionable for Miami, but both WR Stacy Coley and WR Braxton Berrios will be ready. FSU still faces uncertainty with three key players - RB Dalvin Cook, S Nate Andrews, and LB Terrance Smith. Florida State's offense has been shaky the past few weeks against USF, Boston College, and Wake Forest. FSU scored eight offensive touchdowns in those games, but four of them came on runs of over 20 yards by Cook. If he isn't healthy enough to play at a high level, someone else will have to step for the Noles. QB Everett Golson hasn't been turning the ball over, but Jimbo Fisher has been very conservative with his play calling, letting his defense control the game against weaker opponents. Miami's offense is good enough to put pressure on FSU and if the Canes can take an early lead, it will be interesting to see how aggressive Jimbo is willing to be in the passing game. FSU hasn't called many quarterback runs or rollouts for Golson this season. I'm hoping that trend holds because the Canes have struggled against mobile quarterbacks in years past. If any of you can pass a message to him, tell Jimbo to remain stubborn and keep Golson in the pocket please.
Miami is one of the worst teams in college football on 3rd down. If that doesn't change on Saturday night, the Canes won't have a chance. Coaching and play-calling are certainly an issue there, but some of the blame should also fall on Brad Kaaya. Saturday night is his big opportunity. He'll have his full complement of weapons at RB, WR, and TE healthy, and needs to have one of the best games of his career for Miami to win. Much like last year's meeting, this game will be close throughout, decided on a late drive in the fourth quarter. Miami is good enough to hang around, the question is whether this team is ready to breakthrough and finally make plays when it matters most. I have a good feeling about this game, but to avoid the power of the Pickens Jinx, I won't be making a final score prediction. Saturday night can't come fast enough. Go Canes.
After a disastrous 0-3 showing in weeknight picks thanks to Miami's debacle and a miracle penalty-aided USF backdoor touchdown that I'm still having nightmares about, I stepped up my game on Saturday and went 11-6. My losing streak is over and confidence has returned. I finally was able to beat Mississippi State and UCLA, but fell to 0-4 in my efforts to knock off the Gators. I'm taking UF this week in the hopes of jinxing them into a loss because I can't deal with Gator fans if this winning streak continues. My 8-14 ACC record continues to be a concern, but it also shows you how unpredictable and fickle this conference is. Enjoy this weekend's games.
HOUSTON -25 vs Smu - 8pm
SMU's defense is a disaster and won't be able to stop Houston's star QB Greg Ward Jr. Chad Morris will have success in Dallas, but he doesn't have the talent to compete yet in the AAC. Houston wins big and stays on course for a potential BCS bowl bid.
WASHINGTON +17 at Usc - 9pm
USC's blowout win over Arizona State was impressive, but that result was largely caused by the Sun Devils being careless on offense. USC QB Cody Kessler will play well against a stout Huskies defense, but the Trojans only win by 10-14 on Friday night. Washington will be able to run the ball with RB's Myles Gaskin and Dwyane Washington, keeping things interesting early.
NCST -1 at Virginia Tech - 8pm
Virginia Tech's Michael Brewer returned from a broken collarbone in just a month and is practicing this week. I will be surprised if he's able to start at QB so quickly after the injury. Virginia Tech's offense has been a struggle without him and the Hokies are searching for answers. Even if Brewer is able to play, his offensive line has given up 14 sacks so far this season. NCST Jacoby Brissett struggled in a loss last week to Louisville, but I expect him to bounce back and play well on Friday night. The atmosphere in Blacksburg won't be as good as advertised with the Hokies sitting at 2-3 and their season on the brink of collapse.
WESTERN MICHIGAN -7 vs Central Michigan - 12pm
Western Michigan played Michigan State tough and the loss the Ohio State is nothing to be ashamed of. QB Zach Terrell is one of the MAC's best at his position and he has great playmakers around him in WR Daniel Braverman and WR Corey Davis. I like CMU QB Cooper Rush, but his offense isn't as explosive as Western Michigan's. P.J. Fleck and company row their boat to a two touchdown victory.
ILLINOIS +11 at Iowa - 12pm
Iowa was very fortunate to beat Wisconsin last week. The Badgers were a disaster once they crossed midfield and had numerous unforced errors that handed the close game to Iowa. Iowa's defense has been great in 2015, led by CB Desmond King. I expect this game to be low scoring. Illinois enters this matchup at 4-1 with a ton of confidence after the dramatic win over Nebraska. QB Wes Lunt will be able to find WR Geronimo Allison for a few big plays. The Illini keep this one close and even have a chance at the upset.
KANSAS +44.5 vs Baylor - 12pm
Freshman QB Ryan Willis gets the start for the Jayhawks. Baylor is tired of playing inferior opponents. I doubt the Bears will be energized to play at Kansas in front of a few thousand people. Kansas puts up a few garbage touchdowns and loses 59-17.
TEXAS +17 vs Oklahoma - 12pm
I can't believe I'm picking Texas again. The Longhorns are fighting each other on social media and reeling from an ugly loss at TCU. This is a chance to come together and play with some pride for Charlie Strong. Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield have things rolling, but I think the rivalry aspect of this game will keep things interesting. The Sooners win by 10 while Texas plays with a pulse once again.
VIRGINIA +10.5 at Pittsburgh - 12pm
Pitt's offense was only able to put up 276 yards in a win over turnover-prone Virginia Tech. Virginia is coming off a bye week that was much needed after a blowout loss to Boise State. UVA is eager for a fresh start in conference play and I expect Mike London's guys to play with energy. Pitt's style under Pat Narduzzi will ensure this game stays low-scoring. Look for the Cavaliers to do just enough to keep this game close heading into the fourth quarter.
LSU -13 at South Carolina - 12pm
Leonard Fournette will continue his domination of college football. South Carolina is a team without an identity on either side of the ball. The Gamecocks could be headed to a 3-9 or 4-8 season and won't have any answers against the undefeated Tigers.
WAKE FOREST +7.5 at Boston College - 3pm
This will be a low-scoring game - the over/under is 37. Boston College has no pulse on offense after a rash of injuries to key players. Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith will split reps at QB for the Eagles, but neither is good enough to win this game by double digits. Wake Forest showed a lot of poise in last week's game against FSU. If Wake QB John Wolford is able to start, the Demon Deacons have a good shot at pulling the upset. His backup Kendall Hinton is better than both of BC's options at QB.
NOTRE DAME -14.5 vs Navy - 330pm
I know how good Navy's QB Keenan Reynolds is at running the triple option, but Notre Dame's defense dominated Georgia Tech a few weeks ago. The Irish are coming off a disappointing loss to Clemson and will take out their frustration on Navy. Notre Dame WR Will Fuller and RB C.J. Prosise should both have big games against an undersized Navy defense. Notre Dame wins by 20.
NORTHWESTERN +8 at Michigan - 330pm
Two surprise teams with elite defenses will produce one of the day's best games. Northwestern will hang around all afternoon led by LB Anthony Walker. Michigan QB Jake Rudock needs to protect the ball if the Wolverines are going to win on Saturday. Look for this game to be decided by a field goal. I'd be surprised if either team put up more than 24 points (The O/U is incredibly low - 35).
CLEMSON -7 vs Georgia Tech - 330pm
Two teams headed in opposite directions. Georgia Tech has lost three straight and hasn't been executing at a high level on offense. The Yellow Jackets now have to face a Clemson defense that proved itself to be one of the nation's best last week against Notre Dame. Clemson has momentum and has played well as a favorite in recent years under Dabo Swinney. QB Deshaun Watson will have a big game and the Tigers stay perfect.
NEBRASKA -1.5 vs Wisconsin - 330pm
Mike Riley and Tommy Armstrong blew a sure win last week against Illinois with a clock debacle that even managed to top Eli Manning's from earlier this season. Wisconsin is limited on offense with QB Joel Stave and really misses RB Corey Clement who is out with an injury. Sitting at 2-3, Nebraska is a team backed into a corner. Look for the Huskers to play with desperation and find a way to win on Saturday afternoon.
WEST VIRGINIA -7 vs Oklahoma State - 7pm
OKST is undefeated, but needed late game heroics to pull out wins over Texas and Kansas State. West Virginia will bounce back from a disappointing performance against Oklahoma. Five turnovers doomed the Mountaineers in a game that was close in the third quarter. I think WVU has a better defense than the Cowboys and expect QB Skyler Howard to play well at home.
ARKANSAS +16.5 at Alabama - 7pm
Arkansas finally showed signs of reaching its potential with a win over Tennessee last week. The Hogs will have some success in the running game with RB Alex Collins, staying within striking distance early. Alabama is coming off a huge win at Georgia and might be caught looking ahead to a showdown at Texas A&M next Saturday, a game that could decide the hierarchy in the SEC West. Alabama wins, but isn't able to easily dismiss Arkansas.
BYU -8 vs East Carolina - 730pm
BYU will be preparing to face both of ECU's quarterbacks on Saturday night. Both Blake Kemp and James Summers will play against the Cougars. Their two very different skill sets will be tough to deal with, but I think BYU's defense is up to the task. BYU got back on track with a win over Connecticut and QB Tanner Mangum will have a big night in the passing game at home. Although I lost by a few points last week, I'm still 4-1 in BYU games this season. Stick with what works.
FLORIDA -5.5 at Missouri - 730pm
Drew Lock gets the start again at QB for Missouri, but he'll quickly find out the Gators' defense is far better than South Carolina's. Florida is playing with a ton of confidence and QB Will Grier continues to show improvement. Florida shows maturity and wins on the road, setting up a big matchup with LSU next week.
UTAH -7 vs California - 10pm
It's hard to not pick Utah after watching the shocking performance against Oregon in person a few weeks ago. Travis Wilson and the Utes offense will control the tempo. Cal's defense has improved, but Utah's is still much better and the game is in Salt Lake City. Cal QB Jared Goff is one of the best in the nation, but close wins over Washington, Texas, and Washington State left me questioning whether Bears are ready to contend for a Pac-12 Title. The Utes win and become the favorite out West.
SAN DIEGO STATE +1.5 at Hawaii - 11:59pm
Hawaii has been shut out in its last three games against FBS teams (Boise State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin). Rainbow Warriors QB Max Wittek has no help around him. SDSU's running game put up 300 yards last week against Fresno State. Look for the Aztecs to win this one up front on the line of scrimmage.